Young centre-back signs on the dotted line
Promising centre-back Paul Kalambayi has today committed his future to AFC Wimbledon.
Paul, who played an integral part in the club’s FA Youth Cup run, signed for the U-18s just last year, but his rapid progress has been rewarded after he turned down interest from other clubs.
AFC Wimbledon’s Head of Talent ID, Limahl Erb, tracked Paul’s progress for many years and when he was released by Brentford his talents were brought to the attention of Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player after signing on the dotted line, Paul said: “I’m happy to be at AFC Wimbledon and this means a lot. It’s a fans-based club and the support we received in the competition was amazing, especially getting a crowd of 3,500 at the Chelsea game.
“I was a striker at Brentford and they told me they were not giving me a scholarship. I had offers from Millwall and Crystal Palace, along with a couple of other clubs, but because of Mark Robinson (Under-18 manager) I could see myself coming through the ranks here. Limahl knew me from a young age when I was playing for Dulwich Village and he asked me to come over here. Since then I’ve improved a lot and the way that I play is because of the training that Mark puts on.
“There is a pathway here for me to get towards the first-team and I am happy that I chose Wimbledon. In every training session I always get feedback from Neil Cox and Alan Reeves about what I can improve upon. The manager has told me that if I keep going like this in 18 months I could break into the first-team.”
Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer said: “Paul has been with us for less than a year, but his accelerated development has been incredible. We pushed Paul forward quite early on to play Under-21 football. As soon as he stepped into the Under-21s training and games programme he was training three times a week with the first-team. Being in that environment and being up against the likes of Lyle Taylor and Bayo Akinfenwa has really pushed him on.
“The manager is really complimentary about him, Alan Reeves loves him, and we are excited about Paul playing more for the Under-21s because that’s what he needs. In the last two or three years as an academy we’ve made a big push to scout more players from inner London. It’s worth mentioning Limahl, who worked so hard to make sure he came here at a time when Paul had a few options open to him. Then Mark Robinson and me sat down with Paul and his Dad and really sold the club to them. We worked hard to convince them that there was a pathway to the first-team here.”
The full interviews with Paul Kalambayi and Jeremy Sauer are now on Dons Player.